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August 25, 2011

Irene's impact looking worse

Hurricane Irene continues to strengthen, and forecast storm tracks are trending closer to the mid-Atlantic beaches. All signs for this storm appear to be looking worse Thursday afternoon, instead of better.

Irene risksAdd to that the saturating rains we've been getting Thursday from an unrelated line of thunderstorms, and we're being set up for serious flooding once the real rain gets here with Irene this weekend.

Ocean City has already issued orders to evacuate the island. forecasters say Irene has the potential to topple a great many trees and power lines, damage roofs, siding and windows. High bridges may be closed due to high winds. Air travel and high-profile vehicles will be affected. Flooding, too, will close roads. The greatest cause of loss of life in hurricanes is inland flooding.  

The weather service says there is a 5 to 10 percent chance of a storm surge in excess of 7 feet at Annapolis, and from Edgewood to Middle River.

BGE storm officials are planning responses to at least 100,000 power outages, with options to expand the effort to deal with several hundred thousand. Some 500 repair workers from the Midwest are already in town ready to go to work to help BGE crews put the system back together. is saying "there is potential for the worst hurricane impacts in 50 years along the northern part of the Atlantic seaboard as Irene plows northward." The company's forecasters are predicting winds of 30 to 40 mph for Baltimore, with gusts of 50 to 70 mph, with 4 to 8 inches of rain. "Conditions will be much worse on the Eastern Shore, where full hurricane effects can occur."

At least one forecast model is bringing the storm up the western side of the Chesapeake Bay, the worst scenario for Baltimore and other communities along the Western Shore becuse it would mean a damaging storm surge up the bay. Think Tropical Storm Isabel in 2003.

Storm track IreneMost models are predicting that Irene will make landfall in the Outer Banks region - instead of passing offshore as yesterday's forecasts suggested. From there, it would track north and slightly east, following the Delmarva and Jersey beaches before slamming into New York, Long Island and charging on through New England.

But if you think Central Maryland will escape because we're well west of all that, consider this: Irene is a huge storm. Hurricane winds (73 mph and up) extend outward for 70 miles from the Center. (Annapolis is 89 miles from Ocean City as the crow flies.) And tropical storm force winds (39 and up) reach 290 miles from Irene's core.

Here's UMBC Prof. Jeffrey Halverson's take on Irene. It's not a pretty picture.

The National Hurricane Center forecasters do expect Irene will begin to weaken as it hits colder waters and wind shear on its run north to the Outer Banks. At some point they said in this Irene satelliteafternoon's forecast discussion, "southwesterly shear is forecast to increase, which will likely start weakening process. However, since Irene has such a large and intense circulation, it will probably be rather slow to weaken."

The National Weather Service forecast is forecasting Irene's showers and thunderstorms will arrive in Baltimore by Friday night, intensifying on Saturday. Tropical storm conditions are possible at BWI by Saturday night, with a 90 percent chance for heavy rainfall, with 1 to 2 inches possible on top of what may have already fallen. Expect lots more in heavy rain bands.

Tropical storm conditions are possible Sunday, too, but the storm will be departing rapidly as the day unfolds. Next week looks sunny and seasonable. For the cleanup.

Ocean City may see hurricane conditions on Sunday. Officials there have pulled the trigger on an evacuation. 

Here's's take on the storm ahead.

Eric the Red, a professional meteorologist and frequent contributor here, said, "I think it is now safe to say we should expect major impacts from this storm, starting Saturday evening, at its worst Saturday night into Sunday morning, and then diminishing rapidly during the day Sunday... Folks, this is the real deal."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:59 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Hurricanes


Do we really need this...huh?
I sure hope my just repaired rain gutters work!

Frank, is there any way you can let us click the images for larger resolution images? We need to be able to see the maps in greater detail. Thanks!

FR REPLIES: OK. I'll try to do that more.

This could get ugly...the possibility of this thing coming up the western shore really got my attention. Even if it doesn't get that close, you are likely right that it will be pretty rough anyway. I recall Isabel was quite strong here in Glen Burnie (saw bushes bent almost sideways) but moved through fairly quickly. Thank you for the heads-up!

Herman wrote:
"Do we really need this..."

I don't, apparently you don't, and I'm sure you'd have to search far and wide for anyone who would need this.

However, as the old saying goes, 'LIfe happens', and it looks like we'll have to put up with this, whether we want or need to or not.

How does the likely impact of this storm compare with the latest major storm to affect Baltimore, which I think would be Isabel? There were significant power outages with Isabel.

FR: I'd liken it to Floyd, in 1999. Lots of trees down, widespread outages. Flooding.

I lived in South Anne Arundel on the Bay when Isabel hit. We had no power for 9 days & couldn't get out of our neighborhood cause a tree fell across the only way out. Now I'm in Calvert, still on the Bay & actually watching the changes. No one needs this. The only thing we can do is listen to the new & if things appear to get worse, be diligent & leave. Be careful everyone & GOD BLESS!

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About Frank Roylance
This site is the Maryland Weather archive. The current Maryland Weather blog can be found here.
Frank Roylance is a reporter for The Baltimore Sun. He came to Baltimore from New Bedford, Mass. in 1980 to join the old Evening Sun. He moved to the morning Sun when the papers merged in 1992, and has spent most of his time since covering science, including astronomy and the weather. One of The Baltimore Sun's first online Web logs, the Weather Blog debuted in October 2004. In June 2006 Frank also began writing comments on local weather and stargazing for The Baltimore Sun's print Weather Page. Frank also answers readers’ weather queries for the newspaper and the blog. Frank Roylance retired in October 2011. Maryland Weather is now being updated by members of The Baltimore Sun staff

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